Bin Laden driver found guilty in Guantanamo trial

Other News Materials 6 August 2008 20:36 (UTC +04:00)

The former driver for Osama bin Laden, Salim Hamdan, was found guilty on Wednesday of providing material support for terrorism in the first trial of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, reported dpa.

Hamdan, 37, was found not guilty of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism, but still faces a possible life imprisonment when the sentencing phase of the trial gets underway later Wednesday, Major Gail Crawford, a spokeswoman for the military tribunals said from Guantanamo.

The six-officer military jury arrived at the verdict after a trial that lasted just more than two weeks and after jury deliberations that began on Monday.

Hamdan's case was the first to go to trial in the military commissions ordered by President George W Bush, and also the beginning of the first US military tribunals since World War II.

Hamdan is the second conviction under the commissions. Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty in 2007 and was sent back to has native country to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He is now free.

Hamdan was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan and has been held at Guantanamo since May 2002. He is among the 20 of Guantanamo's 265 detainees facing war crimes charges. The Pentagon plans to charge an additional 80 suspects.

The US government alleges that Hamdan, a Yemeni, was a member of al-Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden's inner circle and was aware of terrorist plots. The defence argued that Hamdan merely served as a driver and was not involved in terrorism.

In written answers to questions posed by Hamdan's defence attorneys, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said that Hamdan was a low-level driver and mechanic who was not educated and in no position to support terrorism or have knowledge of potential plots.

Mohammed, who is also held at Guantanamo, refused to testify in court. He and four co-defendants are set to be tried later this year in connection with the September 11 attacks and face the death penalty if convicted.

Prosecutors on Tuesday argued the judge, Navy Captain Keith Allred, had incorrectly issued instructions to the jury by refusing to declare that the killing of lawful combatants by unlawful combatants constituted a war crime.

The defence replied that any change in instructions would be grounds for a mistrial.